Dart Group Filing Reveals 5.9% Stake in Safeway

Times Staff Writer

Dart Group, an acquisitive Landover, Md., retailer whose holdings include the Crown Books and Trak Auto chains, announced Thursday that it holds a 5.9% stake in Safeway Stores and may buy more.

The disclosure, in a form 13D filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, was not unexpected. Trading in Safeway stock has been unusually heavy for about a month, and Dart's was the name most often mentioned in Wall Street rumors.

Safeway's stock rose $2.50 on Thursday to $47.62 1/2, its high for the year.

Harry D. Sunderland, Safeway's executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the company would have no comment until it has had a chance to review the filing. But sources close to the company said the world's largest grocery store chain has been bolstering its defenses since first being mentioned as a takeover candidate about two years ago and would likely fight any bid by Dart.

In recent years, Dart and its affiliates have purchased stakes in such companies as May Department Stores and Jack Eckerd, a Clearwater, Fla., drugstore chain. Dart said in its annual 10K report to the SEC that it earned $13.3 million in pretax profits last year buying and selling the stock of other companies.

In its SEC filing on Thursday, Dart Group said it had purchased its stake in Safeway through a new entity called Garden Partnership. Dart holds a 95% interest in the partnership; the rest is owned by Combined Properties Ltd., a Maryland concern.

Dart said it holds 3.6 million Safeway shares, which it began buying May 15. The company said it paid between $40.38 and $45.75 a share for its stake. Officials of Dart, which is controlled by the Haft family, were not available for comment. The company sold its Dart Drug Store unit to a group of its managers and investors in June, 1984.

Dart, which has annual sales of $90.2 million, is dwarfed by Safeway, which had 1985 net income of $231.3 million on sales of $19.65 billion.

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